Australian government -And refugees in Indonesia

Tamil refugees, fleeing the brutal horror of the war and repression of the Rajapakse regime, have met a further denial of democratic rights and lack of assistance from the Australian government.

Over the last year Tamil Solidarity has organised protests in front of Australian embassies in many parts of the world. Members have written to the embassies and the Australian government in protest at the inhuman conditions facing Sri Lankan Tamil-speaking refugees who, under an Australian-endorsed agreement, are kept in Indonesia. Through the so-called ‘Indonesian Solution’ the Australian government shamelessly ignores its responsibilities to those seeking asylum.

 The prime minister’s office, while denying the existence of the ‘Indonesian solution’, keeps insisting that the Indonesian government is taking care of the refugees properly. The Tamil Solidarity website has published a wealth of details regarding the rotten conditions in which these refugees are kept and how inhumanly they are treated by the Indonesian authorities. Several refugees have now been admitted to hospital due to mental health conditions, brought on by their experiences, and they are continue to be kept in closed detention centres separated from their families etc.

 However, the Australian government confirms that these refugees will not be affected by the suspension of processing of Sri Lankan and Afghan refugees and pledges to continue to provide support.

 Below is the response from the office of Prime Minister Kevin Rudd and the latest Tamil Solidarity letter to the Australian government. An article on the recent change (Gillard Replaces Rudd –But no policy change)

 Letter we received from PM office

Dear Ms Sachs-Eldridge,

Thank you for your email of 30 March 2010 to the Prime Minister, the Hon Kevin Rudd, concerning the circumstances of the Tamil asylum seekers on a vessel in the Port of Merak, Indonesia. Your email was referred to the Minister for

Immigration and Citizenship, Senator Chris Evans, as the issue you raise falls within his portfolio responsibilities. The Minister has asked me reply on his behalf.

As you may be aware from recent reporting in the media, the passengers from the Merak vessel have now disembarked. I understand that most passengers have been transferred to the Indonesian immigration detention facility in Tanjung Pinang, with alternative arrangements having been made for a number of passengers on medical grounds.

Indonesia has shown great patience in its handling of the Merak caseload, and this is a positive outcome. As has been the case previously, I am advised that Indonesia will allow access to the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) for those raising international protection claims. It would then be the role of UNHCR to assess those claims and take the lead in seeking support from resettlement countries to commit to places for those from the Merak vessel who are found to be refugees.

If referred to Australia by the UNHCR under our offshore humanitarian program, they would not be subject to the Government’s recently announced suspension of processing of Sri Lankan and Afghan asylum claims.

Australia will continue to provide support for these and other persons intercepted en route to Australia through existing arrangements, managed by the International Organization for Migration (10M), until a durable solution is found. I0M is an internationally respected, independent organisation, which provides accommodation, food and emergency medical assistance, as well as information and counselling to people about their migration options.

These arrangements are in place because they provide an opportunity for people to have their claims assessed in Indonesia rather than resorting to the dangerous services of people smugglers.

There is no so-called ‘Indonesian Solution’. Australia works cooperatively with our regional neighbours and other countries to address people smuggling in a humane and cooperative manner.

I trust that the information provided is useful.

 Yours sincerely


Cathy Maurer

Assistant Secretary

International Cooperation Branch

Refugee, Humanitarian and International Division

28 April 2010

Our New lettr to New prime minister

Dear Madam Gillard,

Thank you for writing to us to confirm that Australia will continue to support the refugees in Indonesia. However we would like to bring to your attention the fact that the majority of the refugees are still held in a closed detention centre in an inhuman way. Please inform us of the plans of the Australian government to improve this situation as a matter of urgency.

You must be informed that, according to the information we have obtained, there are a number of families who have been separated and kept at different places. There are a number of refugees suffering from various mental and physical illnesses who have not been given adequate medical care. Being kept in isolation and away from other family members and having cruel restrictions on their freedom of movement have contributed to this.

 These refugees are not criminals. Instead they are victims of war and atrocities. As you should already be aware, the Sri Lankan government has been accused of war crimes and these refugees have suffered that terrible ordeal. Their hope of having decent lives after managing to escape the brutal Sri Lankan regime is now shattering as they continue to suffer harsh treatment.

 The children in particular have had no education whatsoever for years and are suffering from various health problems. We urge you to organise, as an absolute minimum, a schooling facility for the children immediately.

 We request that freedom of movement is granted and that the asylum claims be processed as quickly as possible.

 This would represent a granting of only the most basic of human rights. We believe that these demands could and should be met by the Australian government as a matter of urgency.

 Our support is growing and we will not desist from our protest until we have confirmation that the rights of these refugees have been met.

 We look forward to hearing from you,